Constitution Corner: Nuts and bolts of topic de jure — impeachment

Sitting in the Honolulu airport recently I overheard a conversation that brought home just how little most people know about the impeachment process.

Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution provides that “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

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In the conversation I heard, one guy was explaining to his fellow traveler, “you know, impeaching Trump will not get rid of him.”

“What, why not? I thought Nancy Pelosi said nobody is above the law and in order to protect the Constitution it was time to impeach the president.”

Never mind the blatant misbehavior by so many in government over the last few years and that some people in the FBI, the DOJ and several other high offices seem, in fact, to float very much above the law.

But back to impeachment since this seems to have been the goal for the opposition party since President Trump was inaugurated. In fact, Rep. Al Green (D, Texas) put forth Articles of Impeachment in the House of Representatives as early as October 2017, not even a year into Trump’s first term, and again in January 2018. As recently as May of this year, Green was quoted on MSNBC as saying, “I’m concerned if we don’t impeach this president, he will get reelected. … We must impeach him.”

Well, gee, if you can’t beat your opponents with better ideas and policies, I guess you just throw them out of office.

With newly elected representatives Ilhan Omar, AOC, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley (known as the Squad), and others pulling the Democrat Party further and further to the left, and with the Russia collusion a big fizzle, impeachment as their plan B has gained a lot of momentum.

It is interesting however, that Speaker Pelosi has not held a formal House vote to impeach, wanting, I suspect, to protect members who reside in Trump-favored districts from having to go on record in support of impeachment. But the truth is you cannot impeach a president because you don’t like him, or because he wasn’t supposed to win, or you think he’s mentally unstable, or he doesn’t seem presidential. It’s intentionally difficult to impeach and remove a president. Impeachment has only occurred twice in our history. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton hold that honor but neither were convicted by the Senate and removed from office. (Richard Nixon resigned before the impeachment process could remove him.)

For the ill-informed or uneducated, impeachment is not removal from office. Under this two-part procedure, impeachment is the indictment or accusation but only the initial part of the process.

The House Judiciary Committee approves a resolution for impeachment, and then it moves to a full vote in the House where a simple majority of the 435 members advances it to the next stage. The case then moves to the Senate where the trial is held with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding.

The Senate hurdle is much higher than in the House, where two-thirds of those present must vote to convict. Since the Republicans hold the Senate it’s unlikely the Democrats will achieve their goal unless their real game plan is to impeach him through the media between now and the election, day and night for the next 390 days or so, hoping to make him unelectable.

Of course, the media are willing accomplices to this end. But trying to undo an election, overthrow a president and nullify the votes of millions of Americans is not ideal. It’s not good for the country or our republic. Just look at Venezuela.

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Mikie Kerr is a constitutional enthusiast who lives in Waikoloa and writes a monthly column for West Hawaii Today.